Three years ago, UNHCR Colombia were faced with several challenges when it came to managing the safety of the staff traveling by road. The vehicles were old and often broke down as a result. The location of these breakdowns happening anywhere was also a concern. Fernando Carrillo, Senior Finance and Admin Officer, and Aldemar Mejia, Senior Driver, from the Bogota office look back: “In those days we didn’t know where the vehicles went, let alone how we had to provide support to staff that got stuck on the roads due to breakdowns. A risky situation that we don’t want our staff to be exposed to”.

Change came when the office started to replace vehicles and installed the Vehicle Tracking System (VTS). Technology enabled the eleven offices in the operation to monitor movements. It also showed the driving practices by demonstrating the speed that cars were travelling at, how often night driving occurred thus enabling the management to review and implement actions to improve safe driving practices. It sounds like an easy win, but Fernando begs to differ. “Starting to use tracking systems in an operation that is not used to technology is not easy”. Aldemar adds, “It took more than a year for the drivers to understand that they were monitored for their own good and that the systems were used to support them as well as the other passengers and road users. Now the drivers are used to it and they feel more comfortable with the system”.

It is not only the drivers who have to get used to the vehicle tracking system. For the passengers in the vehicles the new tool also meant a change. Fernando explains, “Our programme staff are very dedicated people, who only have one goal in mind: serving the people of concern. By doing that they sometimes ask the driver to exceed the authorised speed limit or travel during restricted driving hours at night time. Changing this habit is definitely not an easy task”. Both Aldemar and Fernando see the support of the Representative, Jozef Merkx, as crucial in this process. “The support of the Representative has been and continues to be instrumental in implementing the VTS. By communicating to Heads of Offices that safety was a priority and continuously following up on the results in the VTS reports, he demonstrates his responsibility towards road safety.”

Since the activation of the VTS system and by putting in place Safe Road Use interventions the number of speeding incidents per 1,000 kilometre driven has dramatically reduced by 59% in the last two years.

Fernando and Aldemar are enthusiastic about how technology can help manage safety. For country offices that will start using VTS they have the following tips:

  • Ensure support of the Representative in the roll-out, for example by demonstrating the benefits of VTS to the Rep and continuously following up on the results in the VTS reports;
  • Engage all stakeholders (drivers, programme staff, Heads of Office, etc.) at a very early stage in the roll out of the system. Learn together about the capabilities of the system;
  • Make sure that changes in the country fleet are timely reflected in the VTS platform configuration by the trained VTS administrators within the operation;
  • Communicate frequently about the results;
  • Be clear and open about how VTS will be used and what will be measured.

For more information about VTS please feel free to contact Global Service desk summarizing your request in the subject line of your message.

We would like to thank Those who already took action and participated in our programmes! Without your support, we could not have made it!

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Photo: UNHCR Colombia